Much as it had done all season, just when things looked worst, the Notre Dame High School boys' basketball team found a way to make things interesting.
The Fighting Irish trailed by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter before rallying to send the game into overtime thanks to a Herculean effort by Stedman Ford. But Cannon County's free-throw marksmanship was too much to overcome and the Lions claimed a 73-59 Region 4-AA quarterfinal victory.
With two other Irish starters having fouled out, Ford scored 22 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, including 16 straight at one point. But it was Shaqualm McCoy's putback at the buzzer that forced overtime. The Lions opened the extra period with a 3-pointer by Jared Nave and a steal and layup from Brian Cripps to put Notre Dame back on its heels.
"It took so much for us to just get back into the game and tie it at the end, I think emotionally we were just drained," Irish coach Brad Harris said. "Once we got down by five in the first few seconds of overtime, it was just too much for our guys to come back again. We were just out of gas.
"But I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys to overcome the loss of several starters to injury and win a second straight district. They never gave up this year."
Cannon County converted 26 of 30 free throws, including 13 of 14 in the fourth quarter and its first 12 of overtime.
Notre Dame led only twice, both times in the first three minutes of the game. Ford made three of his five 3-pointers in the final 57 seconds of regulation to bring the Irish back. Michael McCutcheon narrowly missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that could have won it for Notre Dame, but McCoy rebounded it and banked in a shot just before the buzzer.
"Stedman has a will unlike most players I've seen," Harris said. "He's a fighter and he just willed us back into the game. Some of the shots he was making down the stretch were unreal.
"We had chances, but you have to give them credit for knocking down free throws the way they did."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.